W-W-F-U-D? What Would Frank Underwood do?
The Opposite of Whatever is Good, Fair, Honest and True
Have you ever met someone in your business or personal life like Frank Underwood?
- The employee who seems to take every opportunity to go around you when working through you is expected?
- The peer who engineers that you take the fall in a crisis situation?
- The boss who keeps you in the shadows to limit your opportunities?
I am looking for people who have experienced someone like this man.
As a binge watcher of Netflix House of Cards, I am mesmerized by the figure of Frank Underwood, a politician from South Carolina with a reputation for getting things done, played by Kevin Spacey.
But nobody escapes the fate of being an ally or friend of Frank Underwood—he will be your ruin, he will bring you down, and you probably won’t even know he did it to you.
For Underwood, some people are strong, and others are weak. In Frank’s mind, if you are to succeed you must remember to exploit the weak—and destroy the strong. Most everyone, even the darkest of us, have some sense of ethics and playing fair. Underwood taps into the good in people, and then uses it against them.
What are some of the characteristics of Frank Underwood that we meet in business and in life?
- Self-seeking agenda. I have met few, if any, of the true Frank Underwood self-seeker types, but a few get close. The true self-seeker puts his or her personal interests above any other interest of the organization or the people in it. The organization can be destroyed, but as long as the self-seeker’s power and pocketbook are not harmed, they are not bothered.What is more often the case is that the self-seeker convinces himself or herself that their own self-interest is in the best interest of the organization. As an old phrase captured it, “What’s good for General Bullmoose is good for the USA!” Some of these people will even convince you that their interests are far more important than yours—so, they argue, give up what you have and give it to them—you’ll be noble, and it’s good for you and everyone.
- Achieve My Purposes, No Matter What It Takes. Frank Underwood does nothing that doesn’t help him achieve his purpose. He may seem to be having an apparently friendly conversation, but he is looking for some weakness or opportunity to get what he wants from the person he’s talking that will help him achieve his goal.Frank’s basic strategy is to get where he wants to be—and very probably by rolling over you. Most of us believe in some sort of spiritual principle in life that when we give, we get back. We must beware of the Frank’s who do not share our value system.
- Manipulation and Triangulation. Frank often fabricates several version of the same situation and tells different people and groups contradictory stories to be able to destroy their effectiveness, create a distraction, and come out the winner.This tactic is alive and well in corporate America and in most organizations. When there seem to be a number of stories floating around, the best way to protect yourself from the Frank Underwoods of the world is to get everyone into the same room and clarify the conflicting stories. More people are destroyed in organizations by Frank Underwood style triangulation than by any other tactic.
- Winning through the Destruction of Others. In the second season of House of Cards, Frank Underwood manipulates himself into being appointed vice president, and then immediately begins a campaign to bring the president down, to destroy him without his knowing that Frank is the perpetrator.So clever is Frank that crowds are protesting in the streets demanding that the president resign, and he willingly turns the White House over to FrankI have seen leaders at every level within organizations —from CEO to manager, from executive director to Pastor or Rabbi—who have been brought down by the undermining of one single person or a group. These leaders are rarely without some of the blame, usually because they didn’t connect with enough people regularly to see what was going on. To protect yourself from the Franks, stay connected—never isolate yourself from the larger group, and keep asking questions.
So far in the series there have been a couple of people that were problems for Frank, so he murdered them—and had the power to cover it up. I have no idea how Frank will end up, and that’s why I keep watching. At the least, I would say that Frank will not end well. Things don’t end well for most people who operate like Frank, but they can get by with it for a long time. So learn how to recognize Frank when and where you see him—he’s actually often not easy to spot—and protect yourself and all times!